A recent study, which was partially supported by the Swedish government, examined if receiving the swine flu strain of influenza while pregnant could result in birth defects. The study found that unborn children of women who received the vaccination were not at an increased risk of developing congenital malformations.
According to researchers, the percentage of congenital anomalies in newborns was comparable in expecting mothers who received the Pandemrix vaccine (4.96%) and expecting mothers who did not receive the vaccine (4.78%). The Pandemrix vaccine was manufactured for influenza pandemics, which include influenza A (H1N1), a pandemic in 2009 and 2010. The Pandemrix vaccine was previously thought to be associated with narcolepsy in Finnish babies.
The study was published in the Journal Annals of Internal Medicine. The study involved research on children who were born between October 1, 2009 and October 1, 2011 to pregnant woman who were given Pandemrix. Lead researcher, Dr. Jonas Ludvigsson, and his colleagues accounted for familial factors, and children of mothers who did not receive the vaccine. The study examined the type of risks unborn children had for developing birth defects.
The study examined 40,983 children, which included 7,502 who were exposed to the vaccine during the first two months of gestation. There were 14,385 children who were exposed to the vaccine during the first trimester of pregnancy. These children were compared to 197,588 children who were not exposed to the vaccine, many of whom were siblings.
The study found there was not an increased risk of birth defects with vaccination during full pregnancy. The research found that 2,037 (4.97%) of the children who were exposed to the vaccine and 9,443 (4.78%) of children who were not exposed to the vaccine had birth defects. The corresponding difference between the exposed babies and unexposed babies was 0.10% when the mothers received the swine flu vaccine within the first two months of pregnancy and 0.16% when the mothers received the vaccine in the first trimester.
Although it’s promising to learn the vaccine is not a likely factor that leads to birth defects, there were limitations in the study, which were acknowledged by the researchers. One limitation was that data was only collected from live births. The data could have been different if miscarriages and induced abortions were included in the study. Another limitation that was noted was malformations in previous pregnancies could have had an impact on a mother’s choice on whether or not to receive vaccination during the swine flu pandemic. There will need to be further studies to determine how safe the swine flu vaccine is for unborn children and fetal development.
The first trimester is a crucial time for fetal development. In the first trimester, early organ development happens and makes embryos particularly vulnerable, which is why it is important to thoroughly examine all the possible risks that could be associated with administering vaccines in early pregnancy.
In the United States, it is estimated that one in every 33 newborn babies will have birth defects, which is responsible for 20% of infant deaths. Birth defects can happen in every part of the body. In many cases, birth defects can be traced to environmental, nutritional, and biological factors.
Although it is at the discretion of the mother whether or not to be vaccinated for the flu, pregnant women are at an increased risk for being hospitalized and dying from complications that are associated with the flu virus. However, experts report that most pregnant women who get the H1N1 swine flu will not have any serious problems.
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